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LOMAS ON STAGS: ‘What if they’d stayed?’ The great striker debate

Mansfield Town v Lincoln City'Former Stag Matt Rhead in defensensive duty for Lincoln
Mansfield Town v Lincoln City'Former Stag Matt Rhead in defensensive duty for Lincoln

As Lincoln City trio Matt Green, Matt Rhead and Ollie Palmer head off towards the play-offs above their old club, Mansfield Town fans will inevitably think ‘what if’?

The biggest problem Stags have had all season is finishing, despite the superb efforts of Danny Rose and Kane Hemmings.

So it’s always interesting and debate-worthy to see former Stags doing the business elsewhere and wonder what may have happened had they stayed.

Billy Kee is also top scorer at table-toppers Accrington Stanley with 26.

But decisions have to be taken based on current form and clubs can’t guess the future or risk keeping someone not doing the business or who is unhappy for whatever reason.

The Lincoln trio all left for a reason.

Green was released due to his loss of form and the fact that he’d rarely looked the same player since his return from Birmingham.

Rhead wasn’t offered the security of a two year deal that Lincoln were prepared to give him.

And Palmer simply didn’t produce the goods in a Mansfield shirt. No one could fault his enthusiasm and running, but as a striker, the currency you deal in is goals and he was found wanting. So to let him go at that time was an easy decision and it’s spurred him on to improve since then – as Stags keep finding out.

Goalscoring is always a natural instinct and, with Green, it was a case of whether you felt he may come good once more.

He was and is a club legend, but I think everyone respected the decision to let him go.

Green has now scored 13 times in a decent season but I think fans were happy to see Evans release him as long as he could pull the rabbit out the hat with a quality finisher to replace him.

Did Evans manage that? Well Oxford loanee Kane Hemmings eventually came good to an extent and looks worth keeping next season.

But he wasn’t top of Evans’ list of proven strikers that priced themselves out of Mansfield’s reach and it’s that bit of quality Stags have lacked in their finishing that may yet cost them dearly.

Perosnally, I would not have let Rhead go. If he wanted two years then I’d have given him it.

It’s not like he might have lost any pace over that two years! That wasn’t his game.

Rhead is a fantastic man-mountain option for any club to have.

Jimmy Spencer was brought in as a target man for this season, but has barely had a kick in a Stags shirt.

Players are selected on what they do Monday to Friday as much as the Saturday, so one can only assume Spencer has failed to excite either Evans or David Flitcroft.

That has left the Stags without the big striker to hit when they have needed to chase games and go longer.

Rhead remains a beast. He is gigantic, strong and almost unplayable, so I was sad to see him go.

As for the superb Billy Kee, his well documented personal problems lay off the pitch when he was at Mansfield and it’s little surprise he has thrived nearer friends and family at Accrington.

Another player with well-documented personal issues, but likely to be keen to stay at Mansfield is Peterborough loanee Ricky Miller.

Unable to force a start since he came at the turn of the year and now out injured, he remains unproven at Football League level, yet prolific in non-League.

If he can straighten out his own off-field issues this summer, I would definitely take a gamble on a contract for him. I think he can be a star here next season.

Rose is already under contract, while Hemmings is likely to be a free agent from Oxford in the summer and another I would definitely take next season.

His issues this season have been largely due to lack of matches before he came in. With a full pre-season under his belt I think he can also star at this level.

The jury remains out on Lee Angol with his seven goals, but time is on his side.

With what had been said about him before he came in, many were expecting more from him, though he did struggle to get a run of games.

Flitcroft, a coach of excellent repute, has already said he has seen something special in Angol to work with and Angol may well come on leaps and bounds under him next season.

I doubt Spencer will be back while out-on-loan Omari Sterling-James remains an unknown quantity and potentially one for the future.

Flitcroft will have his own contacts and ideas and I am sure he will massively strengthen that department.

For now, it’s down to the strikers currently in the camp – and the rest of the side to chip in – to get this misfiring play-offs vehicle over the finishing line.